A weekly dose of dauntlessly dealt reality from the What It Is Wednesday Blog Carnival…
The image to the left circulated as a meme on Facebook over the last couple of weeks, and stirred a few synapses for me. It’s too easy in the intuitive arena to assume that empathy is innately good, that it’s innate at all, or that it’s even healthy. As an adult survivor of childhood incest, I can fully attest that it isn’t always beneficial, and Darlene Ouimet’s quote is one reason why.
I am ridiculously intuitive. How, why–no idea. I always have been. Maybe it’s a result of ultra-empathy due to abuse, or maybe I genuinely came out that way. I don’t know, and for the most part, I’ve never cared to dissect it.
Except for the places in which anticipating the moods or needs of others isn’t a solid life tactic.
Whether your approach to The Way Life Works is random, destiny, wyrd, karma, or some original or odd combo of all of the above, there are poignant places in an adult’s life that anticipating the needs of others gets you into a lot of trouble. Like in relationships, work, community–basically any healthy interaction with another human. It becomes a method of damage control that conscripts who you really are, such that your ability to truly be present in dynamics is inauthentic. And if you aren’t showing up sincerely to engage, you can’t expect others to, either. The playing field has already been biased by the projection of what you think is needed. Anything that happens from that point forward is not based on the present. And if it’s not based on the present, it’s a post-traumatic (PTSD) dynamic.
And if it’s PTSD, chances are, you’re dissociating.
Dissociating is when your mind goes blank under duress, or you intentionally shift mental gears to dodge stress. It isn’t inherently a bad thing. When it happens without your control, and in situations that aren’t five alarm, again, PTSD.
When you project (or protect) the states of being of others to protect yourself, it’s a type of dissociation. Doing so becomes so reflexive, so integrated that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. You may think you’re intuitive or super empathic. You don’t realize that you aren’t acting out of your own choice, or that by not doing so, you’re affecting others’ ability to do the same. How I know that is I realized that as an adult, I was still anticipating others’ needs. I was still post-traumatic, just not in the total meltdown category.
I realized I was ‘micro-dissociating,’ as I call it, a few years ago. It would show up when I was engaged in a conversation, yet not realize what was just said. Or I would be poised to speak, when suddenly I’d have no words. I was thinking, thought I was present, and had something to contribute, yet my unconscious urge to be constantly monitoring the situation and respond in the least inflammatory way possible trumped my cognisant process.
If you’ever decided to try something new–instill a new habit, learn a language, pick up a new skill–you know how challenging it is. You have to change who you are at fundamental brain levels, your assumptions about self and life, to let a new pattern seat into your mental processes.
I decided one way that I wanted to improve those processes was through board gaming. It’s fun, educational, challenging, sort of social, and did I say fun? For real, though, playing board games sharpens synapses, encourages critical thinking, and in the most woo way possible, requires you to be present. Of course they are simpler games like you can read in the latest fidget spinner news and other simple toys you can have fun with, different from board games.
I learned very quickly that’s not why other people play board games. In a given scenario of four players, picture me–the one for fun, who may or may not actually be skilled at the given game–two other players who are decent at the game, and one who’s hardcore in it to win. Needless to say, someone like me isn’t fun to game with if you fall into the latter scenario. And if I’m totally honest, it’s not entirely fun to play with someone who counts cards and half-way through the game can tell you the median point spread.
Anticipation of needs or moods is a handy skill in playing games, yes? Sure. The problem with it is, when you’re playing board games, you have to be able to read very tangible things. You have to pay attention to the full picture, not just what you think other people need, figuratively or literally. You have to have been paying attention to what you need, and by default, what’s been revealed and hidden in the proceedings, the whole time. If you’re dissociating, you can’t do that.
In contrast, the hardcore player has been counting cards (or money, points, what have you). Not only does this player know what elements are in play, by virtue of knowing what’s out there, they’re making viable assumptions about what’s left, how it must be played to their advantage, and how that will impact the game.
I will never win against someone who can do that (I will also likely never be a fun opponent, either).
In the same way that empathy isn’t necessarily a great skill to fall back on all the time, neither are coping devices that really only work in isolated situations. They will not serve you in situations in which it’s dire to have tactile input.
No board gaming isn’t dire. But life is. And if I finally can learn that skill in an arena that’s safe, it will serve me well beyond the mere roll of dice.
If You Want to Be Real on your blog, visit the inaugural page —http://www.soulintentarts.com/what-it-is-wednesday/ and follow the instructions there to share your reality with the world! Read other blogs in the carnival, below: